AdobeStock_241753827-1On August 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey hit the state of Texas as a Category 4 hurricane. The hurricane broke records, lasting 117 hours and lingering over Texas for days. 

The stall caused catastrophic damage, including widespread flooding, with some areas receiving more than 40 inches of rain. The floodwaters resulting from Hurricane Harvey caused significant damage to Texas infrastructure, including bridges, roads, and water treatment plants.

Causing over $125 billion in damages, Hurricane Harvey was one of the costliest natural disasters in US history, inevitably requiring a monumental natural disaster emergency response from law enforcement, the fire department, and first responders alike. 

In addition to hurricanes and flooding, Texas is prone to a myriad of climate-related emergencies, including wildfires, tornados, and drought, to name a few. A disaster preparedness plan is fundamental to our citizens' and rescuers' safety and efficiency in severe weather. 

So, how do agencies typically plan accordingly, and what challenges do they face in implementing those plans? How can we improve our response and situational awareness during a natural disaster?


Athena Incident Command and Control: Elevating Disaster Preparedness Planning

The numerous details responders and their commanders must consider in the event of an emergency are never-ending, which is why natural disaster emergency response planning is crucial. In the event of a hurricane, an agency must make all sorts of critical decisions like:

  • Establishing safe zones
  • Assisting in evacuations
  • Creating meet-ups and medical tents
  • Pinpointing churches and schools for sheltering
  • Monitoring hurricane evacuation routes
  • Controlling other crime
  • Working with multiple agencies and delegating manpower for all of the above

With Athena Incident Command and Control, preemptive and on-the-fly decision making are seamless, leading to improved efficiency and faster response times. You can have predefined zones for a citywide TAC plan. You can easily coordinate resources through the shared software, such as who mans evacuation centers, routes, zones, and other established points of contact or protection. Plus, communication remains at peak efficiency, with no disruptions to normal calls for service. 

Say you have a unit placed in a school cafeteria, for example. As more evacuations occur, there is an imminent need for two more officers and a medical responder on site. Instead of having to go through dispatch, the resource at the school can make a request through Incident Command and Control and the commander can then deploy units through the ICC software. 

ICC is integrated between dispatch and mobile devices so that users can organize, coordinate, and communicate in real time from various locations in the field. ICC enables all users to view a step-by-step live feed by the commander, dispatch, and other responders. 

With ICC, the commander can manage their workforce, units, sites, and emergency calls without having to go through the dispatch center. Real-time communication is established with a simple touch-enabled screen. This ease of use is paramount in the event of a natural disaster.

Additionally, ICC is fully integrated with other products in the Athena software suite, including Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD), Records Management System (RMS), and Mobile Data Client (MDC). With full integration, information like status updates, unit locations, and personnel requests are all shared in real-time active maps. Hence, the entire force has access to shared situational awareness and coordination.

Perhaps one of the most helpful components of ICC is the easy FEMA reporting and reimbursement feature, which is a time-saving, efficient department reporting solution in itself. Let’s look at how it works.


FEMA Reporting and Reimbursement: How ICC Solves for Common Agency Pain Points

When a natural disaster occurs, law enforcement uses their manpower to facilitate and carry out response efforts. This could include weeks of support even after the fact, and involves sorting through stacks of paperwork and backtracking to figure out and document who was on certain sites at specific times.

To receive reimbursement for natural disaster expenditures, law enforcement must gather all the documentation of the expenses incurred due to the disaster. The documentation might include things like:

  • Personnel costs for overtime or additional staffing
  • Equipment costs for emergency vehicles and any specialized equipment used
  • Supplies and materials used in all emergency response efforts
  • Facility repairs or temporary housing for displaced officer

Once all documentation is gathered, the EMA will submit the request for reimbursement to FEMA. FEMA will then review the request and determine the eligible costs for reimbursement.

ICC, however, offers a massive time saver. It automatically captures a comprehensive activity log as people get assigned to different tasks and sites. It keeps track of all units and personnel, where and when they worked, and at what locations. It records any other natural disaster tasks and requests, leaving no room for error or missing documentation. 

The activity log can be directly exported to facilitate FEMA reporting and its specific requirements for reimbursement. This direct export for FEMA reporting dramatically improves efficiency, saves time, and ensures maximum FEMA reimbursement.


Full Athena Integration Streamlines Natural Disaster Preparedness 

Natural disasters pose a significant threat to the safety and security of communities. To mitigate the risks and ensure an effective response, agencies must have a comprehensive disaster preparedness plan in place. The plan should cover all aspects of the response, from evacuation and sheltering to search and rescue, recovery, crime prevention, and FEMA reimbursement.

One key to optimizing natural disaster emergency response and preparedness is to incorporate ICC into your CAD (Computer-Aided Dispatch) and RMS (Records Management System). The Athena software suite provides a fully integrated Incident Command and Control solution that enables responders to coordinate resources and communicate in real time. With ICC, commanders can manage all their manpower, units, sites, and emergency calls without having to go through the dispatch center. This makes communication more efficient and effective, which is critical at the onset of a natural disaster and beyond.

With Athena ICC, agencies can streamline operations, enhance communication, and optimize resources to provide the best possible response to natural disasters. If you’d like to identify how the software suite can work with your agency to guarantee increased situational awareness and improved efficiency, contact our expert team for an Incident Command and Control demo.


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